CEO Update|Monday 02 March

Last week, the Government published its negotiating mandate for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Disappointingly for our sector, which had called for a deep and close future relationship, the Government’s vision is not as ambitious as we had hoped. However, the Government has recognised the need to seek agreement in areas vital for the continued operation of our sector, including patient safety, information sharing, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and cooperation on AMR.


Today the Government has also published its approach to trade negotiations with the US. Given the complexities of the US ratification process, the UK’s opening position on intellectual property (IP) is sadly unambitious and at present doesn’t fully capture the opportunity for a state-of-the-art IP trade deal that should be the goal of an ambitious play for both the UK and US life sciences sectors. This would also provide mitigation to the fact that the UK is no longer seeking to participate in the Unified Patent Court – news of which was released by a government spokesman while speaking to a trade magazine.


We will continue to work closely with the Government to secure the UK’s place as a globally competitive biotech hub for the benefit of patients and the broader economy through these and other trade negotiations. However, it is now clear that UK life sciences businesses need to be ready for the additional costs and time of increased trade friction and the potential for extra regulatory processes at the end of the year. Industry needs time to prepare for change and requires urgent clarity on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol. We want to see early progress in the negotiations to secure a pragmatic and business-friendly trading relationship between the UK and the EU. This topic will be discussed in more detail at our next Brexit briefing webinar on Thursday 05 March to which you can register here.


COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to spread. The UK now has 40 confirmed cases and it is clear that the virus is a global concern. Today the Prime Minister has chaired a COBRA meeting on countermeasures. You can find the latest guidance for employers and businesses here. The UK is a leader in life sciences, and we are aware of UK companies which are working on both detection and prevention of the virus. We are facilitating knowledge exchange between  organisations in our network, so if you have a question or can offer help in this area please do get in contact.


Last week the BIA had the pleasure of hosting meetings of Europabio’s National Associations Council (NAC) and the International Council of Biotechnology Associations (ICBA). It was fantastic to discuss the future of biotech with a community of associations from across the globe.


It was great to work with the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI) last week in Belfast. I hosted a roundtable event where I was joined by innovative life sciences organisations to discuss the opportunities and potential issues currently facing their businesses. It was a tremendous opportunity to examine the implications of future EU and US trade deals and the current investment landscape.


On Thursday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Life Sciences was relaunched. The APPG, chaired by Daniel Zeichner MP, is a driving force in raising awareness of UK life sciences among parliamentarians and is a platform from which to explore the challenges and opportunities facing our sector. You can read our press release which highlights the parliamentarians elected as officers here.


You may have seen in the news last week that Sanofi plans to spin off its business that makes active ingredients for pharmaceuticals into a separate company by 2020. We look forward to seeing how Sanofi’s new venture plays out.


Saturday was Rare Disease Day, which aims to raise awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives. The BIA joined forces with Mediaplanet to contribute to their 2020 Rare Diseases campaign. I have written an article focusing on how understanding the challenges in the rare disease treatment pipeline will lead to better patient outcomes, which was enclosed within every copy of The Guardian newspaper and the content is available online here. Building awareness of rare diseases is incredibly important as one in 17 people in the UK will be affected by a rare disease at some point in their lives.


This week we have the kick-off of our Women in Biotech event series on Wednesday 4 March, scheduled for the same week as International Women’s Day 2020. We have an excellent agenda and all are welcome. Register here.


Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Steve Bates has been the CEO of the UK Bioindustry Association since 2012. He currently chairs the International Council of Biotech Associations and has been a Board member of Europabio since 2015. Steve is the visible face of the vibrant UK life sciences industry to government and media. He sits on the UK’s Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board. Steve has championed with government effective industrial incentives like the Biomedical Cataylst which have crowded-in private sector investment into UK SMES. He has forged links for the sector across the USA, Europe and in China. In his time at the BIA Steve has developed new member groups focused on cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineered biology. A strong advocate of partnership working, Steve champions sector collaboration with research charities and academia. Proud to lead an organisation with a diverse Board with over 40% female representation, Steve is committed to next generation talent and developing the skills needed for the sector to flourish. Before the BIA, Steve worked for Genzyme and as an advisor to the UK Government of Tony Blair. He was made OBE for services to innovation in 2017.